It’s Milk Bar week! This Friday we deep dig into the world of Virtual and Augmented Reality. Last but not least, let us introduce you our speaker Mark Baxter, the co-fouder of Digitalnauts, a company focusing on identifying new and innovative ways to deliver learning.
What brings you to the This Milk Bar event?
Liz, one of our co-founders, has attended previous TiM events and only had good things to say. I met Angela at a technology event and we got discussing business and VR. She told me about the VR event TiM was hosting and I was keen to get involved. I love VR and the near limitless possibilities it can bring, I feel it's important to inform people of what can be done today and discuss where it will be going in the future, particularly mixed reality - I believe in a few years MR devices will be as be common as mobile phones are today.
Why are you passionate about these emerging technologies?
I love technology. I've always been a huge fan of future technologies since I was a child. I was always excited by the idea that the technology I saw in films and games would one day come to be real and I would be able to use it. With each year that passes we get closer these technologies which were fantasies of my childhood. As I get older I am understanding how they can become real and where we are currently at achieving them. Who doesn't get excited about the idea of experiencing what it's like being on the Moon? The ability to experience what it would have been like to be in the crowd at a historical event such as the creation of Gutenberg's Printing Press or the Renaissance.
In your opinion, how mainstream are these technologies really going to be?
I feel like Virtual Reality is already here, we can already completely immerse ourselves inside a virtual environment and interact with it as if we were actually there. The growth of VR in the past two years has been astronomical, all the major companies are investing billions into the technology across so a multitude of industries. What I'm really excited about is the mainstream adoption of MR, the ability to get information inside the real world as you look around. Technologies such as the Microsoft HoloLens give a great early on flavour of what that future will be like. When we first started developing on the HoloLens I was blown away by how incredibly well it worked for a first generation development device. I can envision a future where these devices will be the size of a pair of glasses and will be common place, a personal AI assistant like Siri who will be with you at all times. An extreme and slightly scary example of what this future might look like can be seen in the HYPER-REALITY video by Keiichi Matsuda.
How can you illustrate the main difference between AR and VR?
There are so many types now - augmented, virtual, mixed and merged realities, it's easy to get confused. Virtual reality puts the user in a fully immersed experience, they cannot see or hear what is going on in the outside world. At the moment VR is the most common and most progressed of the technologies. Augmented reality is the experience of using a device camera to look at the world then superimposing (augmenting) a virtual object over it. A well-known example of this would be Pokémon Go. In my opinion, AR is simply a stepping stone towards mixed reality. Merged reality is an in-between of virtual reality and mixed reality. You use a VR headset and the experience is nearly the same, the main difference is that there is a camera and room scanning sensor on the headset which allows the real world to enter the virtual environment. For instance, if you look at your hand, a model of your hand will appear in the virtual world. Mixed reality is the technology which is furthest away but I believe will have the largest impact on the mainstream world. As I touched on above, in MR holograms are projected into the real world. The device can process the environment and has an understanding of the objects around you.
Can our bodies and minds really cope with VR, is there a border not to cross?
Absolutely, in the early days of VR a lot of the problems were created due to the technology not keeping up with the movements of the user and it created a lot of motion sickness. This is no longer an issue, there are some physical health issues which come up such as "does the screen cause damage to your eyes" and in rare cases the spread of germs from sharing headsets. Most of the issues which come up for discussion now tend to be around ethics and mental health. A company created a horror game which could respond to what scared you most - if you're afraid of spiders, it would show you more spiders. They essentially created a torture device. My response to this is that it's the same as a roller coaster, no one forces you to go on, it's a personal choice.
Don't miss your chance to meet and hear from Mark at the Milk Bar on 10 February 2017, 3 - 6 pm at Change Recruitment Group, 10-14 West Nile Street, Glasgow!
Keep an eye out for our next Milk Bar and other events!
(Blog first published 02/02/2017)